Dare We Hope?
by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Even as John McCain made an impeccably gracious concession speech yesterday, voices of his supporters interrupted him with boos directed against the new President-elect. Those boos reminded you of the why McCain lost: the frightening jingoistic, racist, Islamophobic rhetoric of too many of his supporters and the trail of destruction visited upon the Republican Party’s highest ideals by the Neoconservatives who dominated the last years.
Barack Obama, too, was gracious. With that polished eloquence we have now come to expect from him he assured us that he will be the President of all the people and invited those who had opposed him to help him to craft “change” that would be acceptable to all and restore the democracy and liberty that Americans clearly desire.
I am audacious enough to hope that new policies that will restore the liberty of Americans will follow the election of the first half-black President of the United States, but I confess that I am also cautious. I am reminded of two important statements by occupants of quite different sectors of the American political spectrum: Democrat Bill Clinton’s favorite political analyst Caroll Quigley and the late Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater.
In his book Tragedy and Hope, Quigley wrote, ” The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to the doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy.”
Is this what has happened (yet again)? Muslims are well aware that notwithstanding the President-Elect did nothing as a Senator to cut funding for the illegal war in Iraq and that as President he has promised to keep troops in Iraq indefinitely and reserved the right to unilaterally attack Pakistan, and offered to disenfranchise Palestinians in a way that not even George W. Bush ever dared: to establish Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.
The large Muslim turnout for Obama can only be accounted for by the professions I have heard Muslims make that he had to say such things, in order to get elected. In other words they vote for him in the hopes that he is a liar. This in turn reminds me of Sen. Goldwater’s insight in The Conscience of A Conservative regarding complaints that the problems of the nation are due to the lies of politicians: “[L]et us be honest with ourselves. Broken promises are not the major causes of our trouble. Kept promises are.”
Despite these things, I dare to hope. Obama has two real strengths that offer hope to Muslims. First, he is a highly intelligent and cosmopolitan intellectual who knows the world well enough not to be enthralled by ideologues who have nearly destroyed the American Republic. Secondly, he has a reputation for truly listening to all sides. Thus, we may hope he will hear our voice and give fair and due consideration to the arguments in favor of liberty, free markets, unfettered civil society, and meaningful religious diversity in the public square.